One of the most common questions I get as a criminal justice attorney is, “James, what should I say to law enforcement if they start asking me questions?!” My answer is always pretty simple – not a whole lot! Look, generally, if law enforcement is asking you specific questions, it’s because you're a suspect of a crime. (Of course, there are exceptions, but generally speaking, you know that I’m right!) And their goal in asking those questions is to get you to confess.
How Much Should You Say to a Police Officer?
For example, let’s say you were pulled over for speeding, and the officer asks “do you know how fast you were going?!” If you admit to speeding, it’s pretty hard to beat in court. Same thing is if they ask you, “whose [name an illegal substance] is that?” If you admit to it, the cards are going to be stacked up against you in court (assuming they can't prove the case without your admission).
For defense counsel, a client’s admission or confession can turn a defensible case into a slam dunk conviction. Do you remember the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Well in thecriminal justice system, the wrong words can be more painful to your case than any physical ailment.
How Much Do You Need to Say to a Police Officer?
Fortunately, the US Constitution afford you your 5th Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination. That means that you cannot be compelled to give statements against your will. Given that, if you’re being questioned by law enforcement (especially if you’re a suspect of a crime), my advice is to be polite, say nothing, and assert your 5th Amendment Rights.
I want to be clear though, this doesn’t give you a license to be a jerk. You can politely assert your rights to remain silent. And you should always show respect to law enforcement. For your safety and theirs. But remember, you’re not required to talk to them or admit to anything.
If you would like to speak to a criminal justice attorney, reach out to us hear at BenGlassLaw at (703)584-7277. And take the time to know your rights.